One Step at a Time – The 1st Step: Don’t Forget the Basics

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You never dive without a buddy and on this trip to Cozumel there were three of us diving together. You should also never shoot a wedding without backup gear and having photographers you can call in your network, if you need help.

by Skip Cohen

For a long time now I’ve wanted to do a series of blog posts that would literally help photographers build the skill set they needed to run a successful business. Welcome to a new series, One Step at a Time. With each post we’ll add in another step for you to add to your list.  This is all about building your business, branding and marketing. Since it’s Marketing Monday, it’s just the right day to launch this series.

Let’s start with the very first step in becoming a professional photographer: YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND PHOTOGRAPHY! At least half of you rolling your eyes right now are guilty of NOT understanding anything about the craft itself. Anybody can grab a shot with a digital camera today. What makes you a pro is understanding how to get the best image, right out of the can, along with what to do when things don’t go as planned.

I’ve been a scuba diver for close to twenty years. The trick to being a good diver isn’t knowing how to dive. In fact, diving itself is unbelievably easy. The challenge is what to do when something goes wrong. You have to learn to think, not to panic, utilize backup gear and stay close to your buddy.

Being a professional photographer is no different. You need to know what to do when a camera doesn’t work. You need to understand lighting and know what to do when a flash misfires. You need to have a network, just like a buddy on a dive trip, to help if you gear’s stolen, you drop a lens or an unforseen event keeps you on the bench.

Most important of all, again like diving, you need to be efficient. On my very first dive after getting certified I used up all my air chasing an angel fish for a photograph. In the process my tank went dry, but my buddy was close by and I came up on his second regulator. Hey, it was stupid and I was a rookie – but I never did that again!

Well, new photographers are no different. I’m so tired of hearing young photographers say, “No problem. I’ll fix it in Photoshop later!” You’re kidding yourself and even worse you’re losing credibility with potential clients! You need to understand the basics, exposure, composition, output and then you can fool around with Photoshop.

Shooting mediocre images and thinking you’ll clean them up later is the equivalent of me sucking down air and being an inefficient diver.  If you’re spending time cleaning up images, you’re losing valuable time you should be marketing yourself.

Being a successful photographer is all about building relationships and trust with your clients. If you don’t win them over by exceeding their expectations, you’ll never grow your business. They need to see images better than “Uncle Harry’s”.

One easy test: Look at your most recent images. Were they outstanding images? Would you hire yourself? If you saw some of your images in a gallery would you look at the price tag and consider buying a print or move on to another artist?

I want to do everything I can to help you realize the importance of getting back to basics.  You need to understand exposure, lighting, composition, posing and output. Photoshop is an important tool and incredibly valuable, but first get to know the basic rules of photography.

Once you know the rules, then you can break them!

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